Walking the Nakasendo, its not only Nagano and Kyoto. You can walk the most popular section in Shiga, called Kusatsu or Moriyama, as a daytrip from Kyoto. Here's our recommended route of Nakasendo in Shiga.

Kusatsu was a Shukuba-machi, mean Post Town of Nakasendo. You can see some sign anywhere in Kusatsu.

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As follow, still remaining same as above old picture.

1562120702.jpgKusatsu was a place for branching and merging with the two major highways, the Tokaido and the Nakasendo connecting Kyoto and Edo (Current Tokyo). It was also a lively place for many travelers and goods because it was connected closely to the way to Yabase port where was an important place of ship transportation of the Lake Biwa.

This is a Honjin, so do you know what is "Honjin"?

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"Honjin" was the most prestigious accommodation in Shukuba (post town) in the Edo period.

There were only one or two Honjin in Shukuba. It consists of a large land and a big building, and there were some special facilities that only the Honjin was allowed to make. "Honjin" used to refer to the "military headquarters", but later because of the meaning of "the place where the shogun is staying", it became to refer to "an accommodation facility for the exclusive use of elite of society, such as Daimyo (feudal load), Hatamoto (direct retainer of the shogun) and Kuge (the nobility)".

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More information about Kusatsu Honjin : https://www.city.kusatsu.shiga.jp/kusatsujuku/english/index.html

In Kusatsu, Shiga prefecture, you can enjoy the walk Nakasendo also Tokaido. At the Furukawa Shuzo Sake Brewery is on the route of Tokaido, you can tasting some of Japanese Sake.

1562121963.jpgJust second minutes walk from Furukawa Sake Brewery, you can see the sign board picture by Hiroshige Utagawa.

IMG_20190527_150926_9.jpgThsi building was a Japanese sweets shop and now Hyosendo's office, Hyosendo is selling Hyotan (Gourd) and it used to water bottle when people walking Nakasendo / Tokaido.

IMG_20190527_143543_0.jpgIn Spring time, there is a festival called Kusatsu Shukuba Matsuri.

草津宿場祭り1.jpgThis festival includes a historical pageant that proceeds through the traditional city streets, with a large number of onlookers taking in the vast array of gorgeous outfits. The main players in the pageant strike a chord deep in the hearts of all who see them, while the rich and fabulous costumes and hairstyles clearly delineate the differences between samurai and noble cultures.

More information about Kusatsu Shukuba Matsuri festival : https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/event/detail/14

Visit Shiga to walking Nakasendo and Tokaido. We are next to Kyoto and only 9 minutes by normal train.

https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/

Você já ouviu falar do Lago Biwa? Famoso entre os japoneses, ele é o maior lago de todo o Japão! No dia 27 de maio tive a oportunidade de ir com a Emilie, Coordenadora de Relações Internacionais do Canadá, em um passeio de barco por essa atração local.

O embarque foi pontual, às 11:45. Nos reunimos em um píer às margens do Rio Seta e embarcamos no Yakatabune Shiki, nome da embarcação responsável por nos conduzir em nosso passeio. O tempo estava ótimo e o barco era lindo. A recepção calorosa que tivemos, então, só aumentou ainda mais nossa expectativa e empolgação.

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Fomos gentilmente guiados ao primeiro andar da embarcação, onde já nos aguardava a mesa e um luxuoso bentô para cada um. Além dessa refeição, foi servido também matcha, chá tradicional no Japão.

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Minha primeira surpresa agradável foi ao abrir a caixa e verificar o conteúdo:

Em poucas palavras, foi o melhor bentô que comi desde que vim ao Japão. Repleto de frutos frescos do mar e cuidadosamente preparado nos mínimos detalhes, ele já bastaria para me satisfazer e fazer o dia ter valido a pena.

Mas então o barco se afastou do píer e iniciou seu percurso pelo Biwako, como os japoneses chamam o gigantesco lago.

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Tempo não era uma preocupação e por isso fomos comendo com calma, desfrutando daquele momento.

Após terminar nossa refeição, ouvimos que poderíamos ir ao andar de cima tirar fotos se quiséssemos. Foi então que nos dirigimos ao topo do Yakatabune.

Chegando lá, esta foi a primeira cena que se apresentou a nós:

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Avançamos pelo barco apenas para nos dar conta de que estamos abraçados por todos os lados pelo Biwako. O céu azul nos envolvendo, a água tranquila, o vento fresco que faz esquecer que nos dirigimos ao verão.

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É indescritível.

A embarcação avança tranquila pela água enquanto sinto o vento refrescante e observo a paisagem que parece não ter fim...

...Existem cenas que criam morada em nossa memória, e eu sabia que aquela era uma delas.

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O passeio pelo Biwako a bordo do Yakatabune foi uma experiência única: o sorriso com que nos atenderam, o conforto da embarcação, o sabor impecável da comida e toda a beleza do maior lago do Japão.

Só resta agradecer à tripulação pela experiência maravilhosa que nos foi proporcionada.

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Muito obrigado!

E até breve!

More details about Yakatabune Shiki https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/spot/detail/2599?active=eat

Rosa & Berry Tawada English Garden

"Rosa & Berry Tawada" in Maibara city, Shiga prefecture, is a touristic farm established by a housewife who had a gardening hobby. This well-managed English-style garden offers a wide variety of activities which can be enjoyed by locals and tourist alike!

Rose Garden/ Peak season

If you are fortunate enough to visit Kansai during late spring, you should strongly consider checking out Rosa & Berry Tawada English Garden in Shiga if only to see the roses in full bloom. The temperature and climate of Maibara, Shiga is ideal for growing a large array of flora. In the 13,000m2 garden, the indigenous trees and plants have been kept and only enhance the seven gardens on the grounds to be conscience of the harmony with the surrounding environment. Despite being in Japan, you can truly feel as though you have been transported to England. (Two vacations in one anyone?)

BBQ Area

If you are feeling a bit peckish after strolling through the garden, there are several dining options, but for summer I would recommend the outdoor BBQ area. The entire dining experience is done in a DIY fashion. You are provided a grill and utensils for cooking your food. In a farm to table move, you can select and harvest seasonal vegetables from the field and cook using them just after picking. If traveling with small children, it is a great hands-on experience for them to learn where their food is coming from. The gazebo, which can seat up to 8 people, let you enjoy the scenery in comfort.

Onsite farms

In addition to the vegetable farm, they also a sheep farm and pony farm. Petting and feeding are permitted, but please only feed them the proper food provided by the staff.

Train

You can take a sightseeing trip from the station in Spacious Lawn to the new Fairy Garden area or just before the Sheep Petting Farm. Please enjoy the approximately 1 km comfortable train ride while your body sways with the train motion and your face feels the breeze.

Fairy houses

In 2018, Fairy Garden, a Village where Fairies Live,was opened on the small hills between mountains in the north area of Rosa & Berry Tawada. Like a scene from the Lord of the Rings, these small dwellings add a bit of magic to the garden and give you a feeling of wonderment and awe. Feel free to explore the area and find the various small houses and trappings of fairies.

Shaun the Sheep

Finally, the newest attraction at Rosa & Berry Tawada English Garden is the Shaun the Sheep Farm House. This area of the park is dedicated to the beloved Shaun the Sheep- a British stop-motion animated television series. Here you can interact with life sized replicas of characters and scenes from the show!

If you are interested to check out this unique venue while in Shiga, feel free to check the link down below for times, prices and access!

(Author : Deuce Ludas Griggs, Kansai Tourism Bureau)

Sacred mountain in Shiga, it called Hieizan mountain.

Before you go climb that Hieizan mountain, here's our beginners guide to trekking to Hieizan Mountain.

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If you are beginner to climb, please don't worry. The route where we choose, it would be great to enjoy.

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But please invest your good quality of equipment and bring your enough water.

During your trek to Hieizan mountain, make sure you stay properly hydrated by drinking lots of water.

Finally, trekking is not race, so go at your own pace is most important.

Now, lets' go!

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(1) Nearest station

Nearest station of Hieizan Mountain is "Sakamoto Hieizanguchi" station (Keihan Line).

From the station, just go to Hiyoshi Taisha Shine's Torii gate. It is easy access, its just follow the sign board.

It takes around 5 minutes by walk.

(2) Entrance of Hieizan Mountain Trekking

3.jpgThis is a Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine. Left side of Torii gate, there are some stairs made by stone.

4.jpgThis is a first step of Hieizan Mountain.

Stairs will be continued to 2nd entrance of Hieizan. Just follow the stairs until end.

From here, there is no ENGLISH sign board, so there is only Japanese sign.

But please don't worry, it is easy access to the goal called Hieizan Enryakuji temple.

Enjoy the scenery of Lake Biwa and ancient stone statue, breathe in the fresh air insidethe wood, and appreciate the things that you see along the way.

(3) Way to the Hieizan Enryakuji Temple

After the stone stairs, you will be on the street vlike this.

5.jpg6.jpgEnd of this street, you can see the iron gate.

7.jpgAfter the this iron gate, you can walk on the stone and rustic wood, but it is no quite danger way. Its just struggling to walk....

8.jpgContinues to walk, you can see some statue and sign board. We've enjoyed making some stone ornaments like this ;-)

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We are trying to find some place to rest, middle of the way to the top, there is a place like this.

9.jpg10.jpgStone statue on the line. There is a wooden chair to sit down in front of this statue.

After the rest, we go for walk again!

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If you see this sign board, it said Enryakuji temple is so close.

12.jpgBut it not said how long. So we need to walk....

13.jpgAround Hieizan mountain and Enryakuji area called Sakamoto, it quite famous as a great stone work in ancient time. So you can see some ancient stone work in everywhere of this route.

And is you see this old wooden ruin and turtles, it will be ending your journey.

14.jpg19.jpgUnfortunately, from here to the goal is soooo slightly uphill.....

15.jpgIt must be difficult but goal is just there, you must go.

16.jpgThsi sign borard is a goal, here is a next to the Hieizan Enryakuji Kaiakan hall (accommodation).

17.jpgIf you are OK, please up to the Hieizan Enryakuji temple's formal gate called Monjuro to Konpon-chudo to pray.

111.jpg222.jpg333.jpgKonpon-Chudo is a Enryakuji's main building, and undergoing some renovation and will be covered by scaffolding until at least 2026.

Watch the video to learn how Enryauji is : https://www.tokyostreetview.com/hieizan-enryakuji-temple-shiga/

Experience Luxury Floor "Vista" at Biwako Hotel

Warm, comforting and creative, the Luxury room "Vista" is a luxuriously appointed relaxing space, from beautiful bedrooms to elegant bathroom is now open for public.

DSC04394.jpgAll are appointed with separate showers and "Airy" bathrooms.

DSC04403.jpgAll come with a coffee machine and local sweets, beverages including Japanese Sake from the local.

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A private check-in is available inside the room, only for you. This beautiful luxury rooms offer all the key features of the superior and deluxe bedrooms with awesome view from the balcony and much more!

DSC04411.JPGFor more information about Biwako Hotel : https://en.biwako-visitors.jp/spot/detail/110

Making chopsticks in Maibara

What could be better as a perfect gift or memento of your time in Japan than making your own chopsticks? At Rosa & Berry Tawada you can do just that. The process is surprisingly easy to get the hang of and it's a great solo or group activity.

When you arrive, you can meander around the gardens which are themed after English gardens. There are shops for souvenirs and plenty of views to take in. The best time to visit would likely be spring or summer when the flowers should be in bloom but even walking around in February, it was still enjoyable to walk around.

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There is a hall where all of the crafts take place and there was quite a wide variety of things to do, including cooking. I think there is a lot of potential to have a crafty day out and come away with many hand-made and custom souvenirs if you wanted to make a day out of it.

To make the chopsticks, you are given two sticks and all the materials you need. All you have to do is choose the style you want to make and actually make them! First, sand down the wood and start to shape the chopsticks as you like them. We had examples to look at and help us work towards the perfect style for our work. We had to sit outside for this part since there is a lot of wood shavings and a small bin and brush were provided to clear the workspace, plus work mats to work over.

j-2.jpgThere was a small draw back that it was quite cold but they brought out blankets for us to keep warm whilst we worked and I was so intent on making my chopsticks that I didn't really notice how cold it was. In spring, summer, and fall the cold shouldn't be a problem!

In no time at all, I had some smooth, shaped chopstick looking wooden sticks. We relocated back into the hall for the next part which was to wood burn a design into the chopsticks. This part was the hardest for me, since I just couldn't decide what to include on mine. You could choose to write the dates as a commemorative item, maybe some small icons that remind you of Japan or something you like. I chose to do a cat outline and wind the tail around the chopsticks. I also included the kanji for Japan and the date so that I could keep them as commemorative chopsticks.

The last step is to oil them and you can add more oil to coat them again when you get home if you like. And voila - it was as easy as that! I am so happy with how they turned out and it's very satisfying to have made them myself.

After a productive morning, we went for lunch. There is a café which has buffet style dining on site here and I would highly recommend eating there since the food is amazing. It's all locally sourced and it's easy to find something you like - and eat as much of it as you like! The food was great but the desserts were absolutely amazing. My highlights were the small tarts, eclairs and chocolate mousse which I went back for seconds (and thirds!) of. They were little bite size desserts, so eating lots of them is totally feasible!

When you've eaten as many desserts as you can, a visit to Samegai Trout Farm to walk it off amongst the fishes is in order! It's a scenic drive up to the farm with nature surrounding you. The farm itself has many different types of trout and there is information along the way to learn about them if you'd like. You can also feed them and there is a fishing area too. It was really fun to watch the fish flocking for food and collecting stamps of the varieties of trout as we went around.

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(Author : JoeleyBeckett, ALT teacher)

Sunainosato

Are you looking for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city?Then you should definitely check out Sunainosato in Otsu, Shiga. Sunainosato is a refreshing place which combines nature and Japanese hospitality to create a truly ethereal place. It is located on the border of Kyoto and Shiga. Heavily focused on nature and tradition, the displays, menus and estetic change with the seasons and holidays. This sweet spot will serve you traditional Japanese sweets, gourmet lunches,some of the best baked goods on the planet, as well as offer scenic seasonal flower gardens with the great hospitality Japan is famous for! You can even try your hand at making traditional Japanese sweets and other traditional activities. English speaking staff is available so don't fret too much about the language barrier. If you make a reservation, you can also try it.

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Feel free to roam around the complex and discover charms unlike anything else. We recommend looking for all of the small child statues. They have really cute poses!

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Come and enjoy the amiable atmosphere and high class food like Omi Beef( A strong contender for the best beef in Japan... watch out Kobe!)! We recommend this spot for foreign visitors who want to take a slower pace and commune with nature and tradition. Got questions? Comment section is below!

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Sunainosato

4-2-1 Oishi Ryumon, Otsu 520-2266, Shiga Prefecture

Follow them on Instagram: sunainosato_kankou

(Author : Deuce Ludas Griggs, Kansai Tourism Bureau)

Rosa+&+Berry+Restaurant.jpgThe Rosa & Berry Tawada English Garden is truly a gem in Maibara, Shiga that should, undeniably, be experienced. The property boasts a café, two restaurants, gift & garden shops and offers many activities which are perfect for groups of all ages and sizes. I recently took a group tour of the property and it was an amazing experience. Upon arrival, the scenery was spectacular with its beautiful floral arrangements and the atmosphere was quite peaceful. I participated in the chopsticks making workshop and it was exciting to customize my own chopsticks. I am by no means an artist; but the staff were quite helpful and provided model chopsticks for inspiration. Upon completing my 'masterpiece', my group and I dined at Restaurant Daichi and their diverse menu items were exquisite.

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The next leg of my group tour took me to the Samegai Trout Farm which is home to the endemic Biwamasu in Shiga. Since it was established in 1878, the farm had a serene and rustic feel which I adored. It was rather enjoyable to feed and even touch the fish in designated areas. The mini quiz pamphlet provided was a treat; and it was great to learn quick facts about the trout while collecting stamps along the way. I was also impressed that you have the option to catch your own fish and have it cooked for you.

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Overall, my tour was a great experience and it was wonderful to have participated in this event. Shiga has so much to offer and is a great area to explore with friends and family. I am eager to travel throughout the region and see what other hidden treasures await me. So my advice to anyone traveling to Japan: Come and discover Shiga, you will most certainly be pleased.

(Author : Kai Oliver, ALT Teacher)

The first plate of the night was this Ōmi beef-cold shabu shabu(sliced beef) with sesame sauce. As the first dish of the dinner, there was a lot of anticipation built up from this moment. Mouth watering and feeling famished, I took my first bite of the small brown part that is cut in three featured blow. An explosion of flavor set off every dopamine receptor in my brain. I am usually not a fan of cold meat dishes, but this culinary concoction may be the only exception to the rule.

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The second small plate consisted of three other dishes ;marinéd miso Herring roe, beef tartare and steamed duck. The real selling point for me were the various textures of each small bite. The duck had a firm and meaty texture (I honestly thought it was beef). The tartare was body temperature and was succulent. A very delicate flavor that kept to the theme of the prior dish with the same sauce. The most interesting of all was the marinated roe. The roe had tons of little pearl-like eggs that popped playfully on my palate. In short, it was a very fun dish to eat!

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Continuing on my devourment, Ōmi Beef with boiled vegetable for shabu shabu was next on my hit list. The broth had subtle flavors that did not overpower the star of the dish, the beef. I quickly finished this dish as I could see the chef beginning to prepare the steaks for the main course.

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The soup for this season was actually made of flowers. I could smell a bit of the floral remnants so I expected it to have a grassy or floral flavor, however I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy texture the soup had! It was a bit heavier than I expected as well but not so heavy as to fill me up.

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Ōmi beef steak. The reason to come. It did not disappoint. Order it medium rare. No spoilers on this one folks. It is one of those things that you must experience for yourself.

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The rice dish of the set was beef curry over rice. Although small in terms of size, it was big on flavor. The curry itself was quite mellow and allowed me to appreciate the domestically grown rice for its high quality. It was a very simple dish that was executed very well.

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The seasonal dessert was a strawberry shortcake. I am not huge into baked goods, but it was really the perfect compliment to an amazing meal. Great thanks to the chef and staff of Matsukiya.

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Matsukiya in Otsu,Shiga

9 Courses of Blissful Enjoyment

Address: 14-17 Karahashicho, Otsu 520-0851, Shiga Prefecture TEL:+81 77-534-2901

(Author : Mr Deontae Deuce Griggs, Kansai Tourism Bureau)

Maibara; Shiga's Hidden Gems

IMG_3405SS.jpgLast week, along with two other expats we went on a tour of Maibara and try out making our own unique chopsticks, eat beautiful seasonal dishes and visit a trout farm tucked away in the forest's of Maibara.
We set off from Maibara station and headed towards our first stop, Rosa & Berry Tewada, an English Garden park. Though it's only accessible by car, it's definitely worth a visit. There are a wide variety of crafts and cooking workshops you can take, from making wind chimes and hats to cooking your own pizza in a wood fired oven!
I had the opportunity to make my own set of chopsticks. The workshop took about an hour and in the end I came away with a pair of cute chopsticks with a wood burned sheep design.
Feeling quite chuffed after making my sheep chopsticks, we then ate lunch at Daichi restaurant (located in the park grounds) to try out our handmade chopsticks.
It was an all-you-can eat restaurant serving delicious dishes made with locally grown vegetables, inclduding produce grown in Rosa & Berry Tewada's own vegetable patches. The lunch was delicious but for me the desserts were the highlight.I would go back just for the cherry chocolate mousse and the roasted green tea ice cream!
After lunch we headed towards our final tourist stop, Samegai Trout Farm. Surrounded by a tranquil forest, Samegai is the perfect location for a spot of fishing with guaranteed success.
One of the best parts about this place is that you can eat the fresh trout! Sprinkled with a generous amount of salt and grilled, fresh fish has never tasted better.
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You don't necessarily have to fish for yourself, ofcourse. There are several restaurants around the farm that serve fresh Biwa salmon, Rainbow trout and White-Spotted char.
Although I was still quite full from lunch, I still took a quick look at the menu and my mouth watered at the Biwa Salmon Kaiseki cuisine (a traditional multi-course Japanese meal).
I'll definitely be coming back here in the humid summer months to cool off by the clear streams at Samegai Trout Farm and maybe spot some fireflies in the evening!
Overall, I was surprised by the variety of activities and cuisine Maibara has to offer. I had a fantastic time! I would highly recommend these places to both travellers with families and those who seek something different on their journey in Japan. You are one rental car away from experiencing the best of Maibara!
(Author : Amy Vivian-Neal, ALT teacher)